April 27, 2021
Today the Government of Alberta announced they will be implementing a “Conservation Pass” user fee for the Kananaskis region. The revenue generated from the $90/year vehicle fee will be allocated towards increased staffing and capital infrastructure spending.
We recognize the need for sustained funding for recreation, conservation, and related infrastructure to support healthy communities and healthy economies. However, funding mechanisms should not rely on a user-pay model.
User fees must be thoughtfully implemented.
Parks and public lands provide shared value far beyond just recreation and should be a shared cost. A user-pay mechanism could create barriers to access and enjoy parks and public lands. A fee in Kananaskis might also displace visitors to other areas. These other areas may not have the appropriate infrastructure or management (i.e. washrooms, trail maintenance, etc.) to sustain increased use.
If fees are to be implemented, CPAWS believes that they must correspond with an increase in environmental protection. This includes restoration of damaged areas, planning for increased visitation, and increasing visitor services, education, enforcement, and rescue. Further, after years of underfunding the parks system a user fee should not be the sole solution to reinvest in the Parks system.
Environmental protection should be a top priority for any revenue generated from user fees.
The results of AEP’s consultation on recreation fees released earlier this month, indicated that Albertans feel environmental protection is a top priority for investment of any funds generated through user fees. “Public comments indicated Albertans want to prioritize environmental protection, enforcement and non-motorized recreation. These priorities must be clearly reflected in management of both parks and public land moving forward.” said Becky Best-Bertwistle, Conservation Engagement Coordinator at CPAWS Southern Alberta.
“Last year’s Optimizing Alberta Parks plan indicated the government’s intent to privatize parks operations. Because of this, we are concerned that funds generated from user fees could be distributed to third party operators for facility management. Sites or facilities not directly managed by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) could result in decreased accountability and service delivery. We feel any revenue generated should be managed by AEP and spent on areas that are a priority for Albertans. We will be looking for transparency on how these funds are directed” said Best-Bertwistle. “We also look forward to hearing further details about the expansion of the Bow Valley Provincial Park mentioned in today’s announcement.”
“As shown by the Defend Alberta Parks campaign, Albertans are passionate about parks and protected areas. Kananaskis especially has seen a significant increase in visitation and must continue to be managed with the environment and public’s interest as top priorities.,” said Best-Bertwistle “We hope that this user fee will be dedicated to environmental protection in the region without creating additional barriers for people to enjoy the outdoors,” she added.
CPAWS is Canada’s voice for wilderness. Since 1967, the Southern Alberta Chapter has provided science-based support and advice to conserve Alberta’s parks and wild spaces. Our chapter has reached more than 118,000 students with award-winning environmental education programs since 1997.
For further comment please contact:
Conservation Engagement Coordinator